“LOVE” is the latest addition to the Lonely Cosmonaut genre. Listen, I love stories about space as much as the next guy who also likes space stories. But I’m starting to suspect that we’ve already said everything we need to say about the subject. Space is vast, mysterious, beautiful, terrible and lonely as hell. This is both common knowledge and well-worn cinematic territory. Until we learn some new information about space, we don’t really need to keep harping on the old themes. While it is a beautiful and moderately engaging film, it also feels superfluous.
Director William Eubank goes where others have boldly gone before with the tale of Captain Lee Miller, an astronaut stranded in his tin can prison after losing contact with Earth. Miller must battle the insanity of isolation and impending life support failure. To pass the time, he creates elaborate fantasy worlds and loses himself in the diary of a Civil War soldier that just happened to be lying around the space station. Eubank, clearly inspired by “2001” and “Solaris,” lets both the fantasy and reality play out in an epic fashion.
Most of us have never left the planet. Nonetheless, the daily routine of life on a space station is well established in our minds. “LOVE” is filled with such familiar images. Miller paces up and down the cold, tubular hallways. He sits in front of panels covered in lit buttons. He peers longingly through a tiny porthole at the Earth below. He runs on a treadmill. He eats nutritious, unappetizing approximations of food. He watches the last video communication he has from his brother on a loop. Eubank attempts to supplement the hackneyed images with Civil War battle scenes and other fantasy sequences from inside Miller’s mind. Some were more interesting than others and I often found myself eagerly anticipating the return to reality.
Among Miller’s hallucinations are interview segments with average folks espousing their perspective on life and love. This is where the thematic flaws really poke through, transforming the narrative from subtle meditation to philosophical sledgehammer. Among the age-old head-scratchers explored: If a man lives alone in space is he really alive? And can anyone truly live without the hu-mon emotion called love? This sort of fortune cookie wisdom along with a complete lack of humor injects the film with an air of high school poetry class.
The biggest marketing draw for the film is the soundtrack by Angels & Airwaves. Though this is the first I’ve heard of it, it’s my understanding that some have been “eagerly anticipating” this prog rock side project by Blink 182’s Tom DeLonge. It’s Brian Eno for the Hot Topic set and that’s cool enough, I suppose. But I wouldn’t say it’s particularly integral to the story. I can imagine the film without it. In fact, I’ve already sort of forgotten what it sounds like. The soundtrack would have been just as successful were it comprised of the thematically relevant work of Bowie, Elton and Peter Shilling.
A noteworthy feature of “LOVE” is that Eubank and his brothers spent four years building the sets out of household junk in their parents’ driveway. Wayne Coyne accomplished a similar feat for the Flaming Lips film, “Christmas on Mars.” It’s incredible how space-worthy garbage can look. No matter what the result, you have to give props to someone who devotes that much of their life to one film. It would have been nice if he’d allocated a little more of that time to streamlining the plot.
Visually, the end result is quite impressive. This film is absolutely a feast for the eyes. In my book, however, looks aren’t enough to win the whole pageant. If MacBeth were here, he might say that “LOVE” is “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Personally, I think that’s a little harsh.